AustralianSuper puts all-male company boards on notice

AustralianSuper begins voting against senior directors on all-male boards.

Is your super a gender issue?

Australia’s largest superannuation fund, AustralianSuper, has begun voting against the re-election of company directors to all-male boards in a bid to promote gender diversity and secure a better return on its investments.

Earlier this month, AustralianSuper voted against the re-election of Galaxy Resources chairman Martin Rowley at the company’s AGM and in April, the fund used its shares to vote against the re-election of Cimic Group chairman Marcelino Fernandez Verdes. While both men were re-elected despite the protest vote, it is a clear sign that the tide is turning against all-male company directors.

AustralianSuper has contacted 17 ASX-listed companies with all-male directors warning them they will face similar action unless they appoint a woman to their boards. Six of those 17 companies have since complied.

“It is our view that diversity matters not just as a social end in itself but in a value point of view. Diverse groups generally provide better outcomes than non-diverse groups,” Ian Silk, AustralianSuper chief executive, told the Financial Times

“We are seeking to optimise the value of companies in the interests of our members. We are not seeking to cause problems for the sake of it,” he added.

Australia has tentatively set a guideline for 30 per cent female representation on company boards by 2018. As of 2016, women made up around 25.3 per cent of the total pool of company directors. Norway has a rate of 43 per cent of women on boards, followed by France at 41 per cent and Sweden at 37 per cent.

It is not just AustralianSuper leading the charge, either. The Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI), the umbrella group for a number of superannuation funds, has recommended its members vote against the re-election of company directors who sit on all-male boards.

ACSI chief executive Louise Davidson said the group will instruct its members to vote against any incumbent director who sits on an all-male board.

“We feel as though these companies have had more than adequate notice about our concerns in this area,” Ms Davidson told Fairfax Media.

“They have had more than enough time to get their house in order and have failed to do so.”

According to ACSI there are 13 companies in the ASX 200 that have no women directors, including telecommunications giant TPG, Cimic Group (formerly Leighton Holdings), Flight Centre, Investa and Qube Holdings.

What do you think? Are you happy with your super fund using your money to address gender inequality? Do you have other suggestions to increase the representation of women on company boards?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    Knight Templar
    30th May 2017
    Directorship should be based on merit not identity politics. If you are going to reserve a percentage of seats for women - to be more representative of the community, than perhaps we should also consider representation by age groups, by ethnic origin, education, disability, religion, gender preference etc ... where does it all end?
    pedro the swift
    30th May 2017
    ALL positions anywhere should be based on merit , not a quota. We keep hearing this mantra about "more women" in various positions. Well, where are the women who want these jobs etc. If they are qualified give them the job by all means but a quota system does not get the most qualified.
    And as KT says where do we stop? Have a rep from every diverse group in the nation represented in all these positions?
    30th May 2017
    I don't care if a monkey in a bowler hat runs my super but it had better make the best profit possible. So no I don't think some woman should be on the board just because she is a woman. I can't retire on her gender equality happiness.
    30th May 2017
    I wish they would use more than two words like"gender equality" to describe issues that are really more specific and more complex.

    " Do you agree with (gender equality)?" "oh yeah man far out"
    " How about (marriage equality) "yeah that's cool" We're all for equality"

    Its too easy for people to agree with something they know nothing about.
    30th May 2017
    I want to know that the Directors of super funds(or any company really) are there because they have the knowledge and skill to manage the funds invested with them not just because they identify as women.
    30th May 2017
    A woman's career track in life is frequently marred by having to take time out for not only having children but being the core stability in the life of that family ongoing. That means being the one who walks out when the kids are sick and making the tough decisions to put family life ahead of promotions. This doesn't mean that the woman is less intelligent or deserving of being on the boards , just that tough decisions had to be made along the track to the top.

    30th May 2017
    This is absolute RUBBISH from Australian Super and ACSI. In fact, it is BULLYING!
    We need companies to select only based on Merit to get the best results for shareholders & policy holders!

    In fact, if quotas are to be reserved / enforced, I would think the much bigger issue is the lack of racial diversity at the top - no non-Whites (e.g. Indians, Asians, etc) in any major companies' Boards! On the other hand, we can readily think of large USA companies such as Microsoft, Google, etc, with Indians as CEOs. How about Ian Silk and Louise Davidson take up this cause too - if they are fair dinkum about diversity to represent their customer base?
    25th Jun 2017
    No wonder women don't have the respect they once had.

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